The Syrian Breakthrough

kuzminNikolai Kuzmin during his solo picket outside the exhibition The Syrian Breakthrough, in Pskov. His placard reads, “Spend budget money on our own schools and hospitals, not on someone else’s war.” Photo by Lyudmila Savitskaya. Courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Yabloko Activist Detained in Pskov at “Syrian Breakthrough” Exhibition
Lyudmila Savitskaya
Radio Svoboda
April 26, 2019

In Pskov, police have detained local Yabloko Party activist Nikolai Kuzmin, who held a solo picket outside an exhibition of military equipment entitled The Syrian Breakthrough. Kuzmin stood behind servicemen queued at the city’s train station to see the exhibition.

He held a placard that read, “Spend budget money on our own schools and hospitals, not on someone else’s war.”

Commenting on his actions, Kuzmin claimed over 25,000 schools had been closed in Russia over the past twenty years. The activist argued that, outside Moscow and Petersburg, it was nearly impossible to get an ambulance, and half of the men in Pskov Region did not live to retirement age.

“As in a dystopia, however, instead of being productive and saving the lives of Russians, we have raised war into a cult that we worship. Lacking reasons to feel proud, we are administered daily injections of patriotism. But patriotism does not mean fighting wars in someone else’s countries. It means building things in your own country and having a critical attitude toward the mania for military victory,” Kuzmin added.

Kuzmin’s picket lasted around ten minutes. During this time, members of the pro-regime organization Team 2018 managed to have their picture taken with him. Kuzmin was then surrounded by military police who asked him to leave. Kuzmin responded by asking them to identify themselves [as required by Russian laws regulating the police] and explain their grounds for wanting to remove him from a public event.

The military policemen were unable to fulfill Kuzmin’s request, so Sergei Surin, head of the Interior Ministry Directorate for Pskov [i.e., the local police chief] came to their aid. He personally detained Kuzmin while repeatedly refusing to explain the grounds for the arrest to Kuzmin and comment on it to reporters who were present.

Lev Schlosberg, leader of the Yabloko Party in Pskov, demanded Kuzmin’s immediate release and the removal from Pskov of The Syrian Breakthrough, which he dubbed a “propaganda scrap heap.”

“Russia must cease military operations in Syria, while government funds should be spent on peaceful goals that further the interests of Russia’s citizens,” Schlosberg said.

In February 2019, the Russian Defense Ministry launched a train containing weapons seized, it claimed, by Russian servicemen during combat in Syria. The train departed Moscow on an itinerary of sixty cities and towns. When it reaches Vladivostok, the train will head back to Moscow. It is scheduled to arrive there on the eve of Victory Day, May 9.

Thanks to Nikolai Boyarshinov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Doctors Protest Cuts to Ambulance Services in Petersburg

Doctors Protest Cuts to Ambulance Services in Petersburg
David Frenkel
Special to The Russian Reader
June 8, 2015

On June 7, doctors working in the ambulance service at Municipal Clinic No. 4 on Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island organized a series of solo pickets against “optimizations” at the city’s medical facilities.

The pickets took place on Sunday afternoon on the pedestrian boulevard between the island’s Sixth and Seventh Lines. They were organized by Action (Deistvie), a nationwide trade union of healthcare workers that has also recently organized a work-to-rule strike by doctors in Moscow.

medicos-12 brigadesProtester holds a placard that reads, “Twelve ambulance crews for 210,00 residents. How is that?”

After recent staff layoffs, the number of ambulance brigades has been drastically reduced, and long delays in responding to emergency calls have become routine. In May, half of all calls resulted in delays of up to forty minutes, while in April the waiting time was as long as six hours. According to standards for ambulance crews, issued by the Ministry of Health in 2013, an ambulance should arrive at its destination no later than twenty minutes after being dispatched.

medicos-pediatric teamsProtester holds placard that reads, “No to the elimination of pediatric ambulance crews.” A police officer copies the slogan down in a notebook.

Another problem the protesters highlighted were plans to abolish pediatric ambulance crews. From now on, the same ambulance teams will treat both children and adult emergency patients. The protesting medics also demanded that the intensive care ambulance team be reestablished. This is especially important for Vasilyevsky Island, which is cut off from the mainland when the bridges are raised at night.

medicos-abdullyaev“Abdullayev: corruption and medicine are incompatible.”

Doctors are prepared to continue their protest campaign, expecting their demands to be heard and impact decisions made by the clinic’s management.

They had already organized protests against Municipal Clinic No. 4’s chief physician, Alisher Abdullayev. After clinic employees had their salary bonuses slashed, it transpired that Abdullayev had topped the list of Petersburg’s wealthiest chief physicians. In 2014, he declared an income of 21.86 million rubles (approximately 350,000 euros at current exchange rates), a two thousand square meter plot of land, a 109 square meter apartment, and a car.

Andrei Konoval, Action’s organizational secretary, argued that the pickets had been a success and called on the protesters not to give up. He cited counting delayed ambulance calls as a principal weapon in the campaign by medics to improve their working conditions, because such statistics impress health care officials the most.

medicos-56 delays“56 late arrivals per day is the result of optimizing the ambulance service.”

Maxim Reznik, a liberal member of the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, was also on hand to support the protesting doctors. He promised to help them in their campaign.

All photographs by and courtesy of David Frenkel